Scientific American Analysis

A&L links to an article in Scientific American, Michael Shermer’s “Murdercide: Science Unravels the Myth of Suicide Bombers.” Few readers will be surprised by the conclusion; still, restating the obvious is even the dullard’s duty.

One method to attenuate murdercide, then, is to target dangerous groups that influence individuals, such as Al ­Qaeda. Another method, says Princeton University economist Alan B. Krueger, is to increase the civil liberties of the countries that breed terrorist groups. In an analysis of State Department data on terrorism, Krueger discovered that “countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which have spawned relatively many terrorists, are economically well off yet lacking in civil liberties. Poor countries with a tradition of protecting civil liberties are unlikely to spawn suicide terrorists. Evidently, the freedom to assemble and protest peacefully without interference from the government goes a long way to providing an alternative to terrorism.”

Their conclusion: “let freedom ring.” Of course, suggestions may come from George Clooney, but I prefer the analysis & solutions of, say, Condolezza Rice. Just because it is obvious doesn’t mean it won’t be difficult and often impossible.

Later Note: Today (Sunday) A&L links to a quite different argument, taken The National Interest; this clearly emphasizes different petri dishes and applies its eyes to the less successful examples of “forced democratization.” Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder argue in “Prone to Violence” that some problems arise because of what they see as “the Oxymoron of Imposed Democracy.”

IF A COUNTRY lacks the preconditions for democracy, can this infrastructure be forcefully supplied by an external source? Few would argue in favor of conquering countries simply to make them democratic, but democratic great powers–particularly Great Britain and the United States–have sometimes conquered countries for other reasons and then have struggled to remake them as friendly democracies before withdrawing. Those who are nostalgic for empire view this as a policy with a future. They point to the establishment of courts, a free press and rational public administration in British colonies, without which democracy would probably be scarcer in the developing world today, since most of the postcolonial states that have remained almost continuously democratic–such as India and some West Indian island states–are former British possessions. Still, other former British colonies have failed to achieve democratic stability: Pakistan and Nigeria oscillate between chaotic elected regimes and military dictatorships; Sri Lanka has held elections that stoked the fires of ethnic conflict; and Malaysia has averted ethnic conflict only by limiting democracy. The list contains even more parlous cases, from Burma to Zimbabwe.

6 thoughts on “Scientific American Analysis”

  1. I keep returning the idea that Leftist conceive of the majority of humanity as some kind of domestic animals who, if made merely physically comfortable, will be perfectly happy. Conversely, if they are unhappy they must be physically deprived.

    Leftist seem incapable of conceptualizing people has having complex emotions pride and envy that can drive their political behavior. I suppose the ghost of Marx still so contaminates their world view that they can think of people as nothing more than economic robots.

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  3. The conclusion seems pretty clear: the answer to suicidal murderers in this case is greater freedon; “imposed democracy” sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t; and not imposing democracy never works.

  4. Backing up what Charlie said: If you try, you may have only 10% of getting what you want. But if you don’t try, you’re guranteed not to get what you want.

  5. In a developing nation, culturally weak and unable to sustain a sophisticated representative-based government, authoritarian rule has been the norm.

    When these (typical) dictatorships can influence the well-being of the U. S. the U. S. has (reasonably, I think) has supported the dictatorship that favores U. S. well-being. That is, if the an authoriarian, repressive regime will be in place in any case, why not support one that favors the U. S?

    The (rather hypocritical, but understandable) criticism from various places around the world about US interference in these culturally weak places will be defused to a large extent when the interference takes the form of a “democratic impostion” (quotes mine).

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